George Washington: A Biography - Vol. 1

By Douglas Southall Freeman | Go to book overview

APPENDIX 1-10
THE CAPITULATION OF FORT NECESSITY

OBSCURITY OF detail and conflict of evidence make the capitulation of Fort Necessity a fascinating historical puzzle in three particulars: Were the preliminary negotiations conducted by Jacob van Braam alone or by him and William La Peyroney? What were the conditions Washington rejected? Did van Braam deceive Washington concerning the terms and, especially, concerning the admission that Jumonville had been "assassinated"?

The available evidence consists of: (1) various references in the four accounts, direct and indirect, for which Washington was responsible, as mentioned, supra, p. 403, n. 118; (2) the letter of Maj. Adam Stephen in the Md. Gazette of Aug 29, 1754; (3) Stephen's mention of the circumstances in his "Life," prepared for Benjamin Rush; (4) Villiers' observations in the Précis that included Washington's journal, conveniently translated in 2 Sparks, 461 ff; (5) van Braam's testimony at the trial of himself and Captain Stobo in Canada in 1756, Rapport de l'Archiviste de la Prov. de Quebec, 1922- 23, p. 304 ff; (6) the text of the capitulation itself as given in the original at Montreal and in the early copy in the Virginia archives; and (7) van Braam's memoir and the action of the General Assembly of 1760-61, in his case.

Governor Dinwiddie is the first witness on the question whether van Braam alone or van Braam and La Peyroney together conducted the preliminary negotiations. In the Governor's letter Of July 24, 1754,1 the statement is made that "the commander [ Washington] sent two officers, to whom they [the French] gave their proposals . . ." The Virginia Gazette, July 19, 1754, on the indirect authority of Washington and Mackay, quoted the two officers as saying: "We then sent Captain van Braam and Mr. Peyronee [sic] to receive their proposals, which they did . . ." This would leave no doubt of the circumstances were there not (1) numerous references to the action of van Braam alone and (2) the statements of Adam Stephen that "Mr. van Braam was sent to speak to them," and that "Mr. Peyroney was dangerously wounded, and we much regretted to the loss of his services on this occasion."2 From the context, it is clear that Stephen meant to say La Peyroney, an intelligent and well-educated Frenchman, was missed in the translation of the terms. It is not clear when La Peyroney was injured,

____________________
1
1 Din. 240.
2
Md. Gazette, Aug 29, 1754; Ambler, 212. The name is spelled Peyronee, Peyronie and in various other ways, but Peyroney is the signature to one of his autograph letters in 1 Hamilton, 40.

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